About This Blog

The public should know all we can about the business of the decision makers that affect our lives, our wallets and our democracy. This is a record of my efforts to try and improve the levels of transparency and accountability within Sheffield City Council and others. To shine a light on how decisions are made and where the money goes. If I can also help others to find their own voice and influence along the way, then that is a bonus.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Sheffield City Council Cabinet Meeting of 12th November, by Nigel Slack.

After the usual preliminaries and approval of minutes and such, we came quite quickly to Public Questions. Slightly unusually the first questioner did not wish to be recorded, so I obliged and I will not detail his question, which was very personal in this blog either. The outcome was that the relevant cabinet member arranged to meet with the individual outside the meeting to pursue his problem.

In due course my own questions came around and there were quite a few. My first two could actually be taken together and so I will. The first was about the extension of the Capita contract for the provision of what are known as Treasury services and also back office IT services. My second was on the start of the 'Budget Conversation' and asking for greater transparency about what savings had already been found.

Unfortunately due to poor recording conditions the answers were inaudible so I'm afraid it's back to the old routine of giving my precis of what was said in response. To the first question Cllr Ben Curran (Finance & Resources) made no specific comment about the 'capacity' issue but explained at some length the benefits of the new contracts break points and the savings that have been made during the redesign of the service provision. He also commented on the continued testing of the service against market norms and the council's ability to take advantage of the breaks in the contract if needed.

On the question about the budget conversation he commented that we were only at the start of the process and this was to get the ball rolling. Essentially more information will come out as they feel confident to do so, leading to the final budget in March. Cllr Julie Dore (Leader) also chipped in to say that the officers were tasked with briefing the opposition parties throughoutt he process and that they had more detailed information as it became available. Some however chose not to engage with the process that deeply.

My question three commented on the recent CBI conference and their suggestion that National Insurance limits be raised to alleviate the suffering of the low paid. I suggested that it would be easier for the CBI to suggest their members raise the low wages rather than the government subsidies and asked if the Council agreed? Julie Dore responded that she did agree they should be raising wages and believed her Labour Group would also. She then commented on the city supporting the living wage, above the minimum wage.

My question four concerned the webcasting debate and asked whether, in the absence of that facility the council would facilitate using a direct input from the Council's own amplification system to enable me to achieve better quality recordings. This was referred to the legal officer to look into and we will correspond on this issue.

Question five was an opportunity to commend the Council over the intention of the city to reflect on the 100th anniversary of the first world war with the Centenary Fields project. This will lead to the Weston Park, adjacent to the city museum to be designated and reserved for public use in perpetuity as a memorial to those whose lives were sacrificed in the bloody conflict. Cllr Isobel Bowler (Culture, Sport & Leisure) thanked me for the commendation and said it was important that this project would not only commemorate the centenary but secure the park for the future use of the people of the city.

My final short notice question, drew attention to the negotiations ongoing between the City region and the Government over so called 'Devolution' and to ask if there would be public consultation over the debate before a decision was made. Julie Dore answered a simple no. She followed this by saying there just wasn't time. The timetable is the governments and they want to make an announcement in the Autumn Statement on 3rd December. She did comment that she hoped that the subsequent negotiations on the detail of the agreement would allow for fuller consultation with the public over that detail.

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